And so…..Vasalisa steps into Baba Yaga’s house. In the kitchen a meal is cooking. Masses of food, enough for a small army! Baba Yaga orders Vasalisa to serve her the food. All of it! Baba Yaga is one hungry Wild Woman, and when she is done there are only a few meagre scraps left for Vasalisa and her Doll.
“This is what you will do for me. You will cook and clean my house. Only after then will we see about your fire.” Vasalisa knows how to keep house, a good thing, because now her life depends on it.
After that first evening meal, Baba Yaga sets another task for Vasalisa.
”While I am out tonight, you will sort this corn into two piles. One of the mildewed Corn and the other of the unblemished Corn.” Baba Yaga turns her head as she walks out the door, “You must also finish
before the morning.”
What a task. The pile is enormous, and Vasalisa begins to despair. She clutches her Doll, and beginning to weep asks “How will I ever complete this task by morning?” “I will sort the corn for you.” the Doll gently tells Vasalisa, “You get some sleep.” When Vasalisa awakes in the morning, to her astonishment, all the corn is neatly sorted. Baba Yaga sweeps back into the house, and surveys the sorted corn. “Hmph!”she snorts. With a clap of her hands, Baba Yaga summons a pair of hands that quietly goes about the business of grinding the corn into meal.
Again Baba Yaga must be fed, and following another day of washing, cleaning and cooking she sets another task for Vasalisa. “Let’s see if you can complete another task.” the old Crone snarls. “Sort the Poppy seeds from the dirt, into two separate piles. Fail to finish this task by morning and I promise I will eat you.” And then, as with all great story book witches, she flew away into the black night.
Vasalisa despaired. “Poppy seeds. Oh how will I ever complete this task?” Again her Doll offered to complete the task so that poor tired Vasalisa could sleep. By the morning, when Vasalisa awoke and Baba Yaga swept back into the house, there were two neat piles, one of dirt and the other of Poppy seeds. Again Baba Yaga summoned the body-less hands to grind the seeds for their oil.
Vasalisa had completed the set tasks, and now waited to see if Baba Yaga would come good on her part of the bargain.
How awesome is the symbology here?? Cooking, cleaning, sorting, sleeping, threats of being eaten! The domestic aspects of this tale point to Vasalisa needing to keep her psychic house in order. She needs to sweep from her mind the debris of accumulated thoughts, those that are out dated or useless. As she washes the clothes the weave of the fabric tightens, bringing things back into their right shape. And COOK, cook with fire, heat up the passion in and for her life. Vasalisa must take care too, for if she takes her eyes off the fire, she risks ruining her meal, or to miss sweeping up the unwanted debris will leave it to clutter her mind. When she sets her house in order, Vasalisa has set her whole being in order too.
During her sleep Vasalisa has also undertaken the task of sorting this from that. The Doll, a beautiful representation of her intuition, assists in the task of sorting the good from the bad, the medicine from the poison. In our slumber, when our conscious mind rests, the sub-conscious works through that which supports and that which does not serve. During more Earth aware times, the poppy seed offered medicine in the form of the opiate, and the corn symbolized food, dirt is our Earth and the mildewed corn is poison. It is all there in the Folk tales, when we have the knowledge to decipher the code, or dare to look!